When thinking about early retirement, most people have two big concerns which are
Money - do I have enough/will it run out?
What will I do? - will I be bored and, possibly, will I be lonely without the social interactions from work?
Some will say that there are other concerns as well, but they can mostly be put into either the "money" or "what will I do" boxes. For example, health insurance may be a concern, but this is mostly a money question because, provided you have enough money, you can buy the insurance.
For this post, I'm going to look at the what will I do question. Well, perhaps not the whole question, because although I might like to pretend that I can tell you what you will do with your new time, the truth is that I can't, as my interests, passions and hobbies will be different from yours.
But what I can do is talk about one of the tools that I have found useful in my early retirement journey so far.
Now, I know it sounds terribly unexciting, but a great tool for me has been routine. I know what you're thinking...you're thinking that one of the main benefits of deciding to retire early is to have freedom, the chance to do what you want when you want, and to not be constrained by routine such as we used to have when we were working. I know, I thought exactly the same, but I've changed my mind, and these are some of the reasons why:
Routine can help with the transition from work life to retired life
It's easy to feel lost during the transition from work life to retired life, and routines can help us with this. Humans generally don't like too much change, so keeping a routine in our lives as we enter early retirement limits the change from what we are used to. We had routine when we worked and if we still have routine in our early retirement then that creates a similarity to help us with the transition from work to retirement.
We still have chores, and routine helps us get them done
Even in early retirement, you will still have chores that need to get done. Bills to pay, investment decisions to make, groceries to buy, things to do around the house, and more. Having a routine helps you get these done on a regular basis rather than letting them build up. Getting our chores done and out of the way makes us feel better, avoid unnecessary stress, and ensure we sleep well each night.
Our retirement time is still valuable, and routine helps us to not waste it
Remember when you were thinking of retiring early, you imagined the fun and interesting things that your new free time would allow you to do. Well, for many people, myself included, it's all too easy to stay in bed a little longer, watch TV a little more, surf the net for things that you're actually not interested in. All of a sudden, you find you are doing this instead of the fun, interesting and rewarding things that you had dreamed your retirement would let you do. Routines can help you to not waste time doing things you're not really interested in, and free up time for the things you want to do instead.
Routines ensure that you do the things that you want
Please don't think of routines as a bad thing, or that they only contain chores. Nowadays, my routines are designed around doing the things that I want to do, the things that I dreamed would make early retirement fun and exciting. Sure there are also chores within the routine, but my routine helps me get them done in a matter of fact, little hassle, way, which leaves more time to focus on the things I want to do.
Nobody said that your routine can't include luxury
It's just fine for your routine to include luxuries. If your ideal routine has 2 hours to prepare and eat a wonderful lunch because that's what you enjoy, then that's perfect, you have a routine that is designed around making you happy.
And your retirement routine can even include work!
Include work - how can that be? After all, I'm retired, so how has work crept in? For most people, early retirement isn't about being on a permanent vacation. We would soon get pretty bored with that. Most of us will therefore incorporate some version of "work" into our retired life - it's just that what we call work in retirement is quite different from what we traditionally thought of as work. Our retirement work will be what we want to do (not what we have to do), we may do it from home, we may do it because we want to give something back and help others, we may do it because we have a passion about it, or we may do it to earn a bit of extra pocket money. But the important thing is that we do it on our own terms, and most likely we don't have a boss and we don't have to deal with the corporate rubbish (that's a more polite word than I was going to use!). For me, my blog counts as a work activity that I include in my routine.
So what made me write this post? I was lucky to spend 4 weeks on vacation in July and August, and holidays are generally where you leave your routines behind. That's perfectly fine, after all, a vacation is when you vacate your normal life to do something different, so it makes sense if routines fall away during this time. But I now realise that I missed parts of my routine that I abandoned during my vacation, and I've been pleased to get them back into my daily life now that my vacation is over. I think that on my next vacation, I'm going to keep some of my normal routines going.
Let me know if routines work for you, or whether you enjoy freedom from routine now that you have retired. It would be good to hear your views.